Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shake, rattle & roll: the Avondale Earthquake of 1885

At around four minutes to 7 in the evening of 22 December 1885 – the ground shook violently and for a prolonged time beneath the feet of Avondale’s residents. One shocked settler headed straight for one of the district’s telephones and reported to the NZ Herald, telling them that the quake had lasted a full four minutes. It was distinctly felt by neighbours contacted by the informant, and “in two or three instances it had caused considerable alarm.”

The Herald was quite perplexed and dubious. “The shock”, they advised, “if shock it was, must have been confined to Avondale, for although we caused inquiries to be made, we were unable to learn that it had been felt beyond that district.”

The Star, however, did some sleuthing and their inquiries found that a Mr. Thomas Reid had been working a quarry that evening on the Gittos tannery property (possibly part of the former quarry land at the end of Soljak Road off New North Road). It appears he fired “an unusually large blast” of 400lbs of powder. “This,” the Star informed readers, “no doubt explains the phenomena.”

Such was the Avondale Earthquake of 1885.

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